Question and Answer
New teacher evaluation regs mean more hours for principals
School Superintendents Tim Hayes of Geneseo, Scott Bischoping of Livonia, Michael Wetherbee of Wayland-Cohocton, Paul Alioto of Dansville, Robert Molisani of Caledonia-Mumford, and Dan Murray of York met with Livingston County News Editor Mark Gillespie and reporters Howard Appell and Sally Santora last week.
Issues of administration, staffing and finance were discussed with emphasis upon the new state mandate requiring classroom observation and teacher evaluation by the principals.
LCN: We received a call from a reader wanting to know why his school district is adding an administrator when it is eliminating teaching positions. We said we would be asking that question today.
Hayes: The new evaluation requirements have greatly increased the amount of time principals are expected to be in classrooms. The state is now saying that 70 percent of a principal’s day should be in classrooms doing instructional supervision. The full requirement goes into place next school year, 2012-13.
But there are a lot of other duties in an administrator’s day that have to be done at some point: managing student behavior, working on curriculum, conversations with parents…
So the new requirement really creates a need for districts to look and ask, ‘How are we doing professional development? We [at Geneseo] are a $17 million a year business. For us not to have somebody whose main purpose is professional development makes no more sense than it would for a corporation of that size to not have research and development.
If 70 percent of the building principal’s time is going to be occupied with teacher evaluation, I would argue that we do need some [other] people — a curriculum coordinator or assistant principal — who are heavily invested in the [research and development ] part of our organization.
Bischoping: At one time we had ten administrative positions [at Livonia]. At this time we have seven-and-a-half. We did not fill retirements and made it work with what we had, but next year we will be restoring one of the full time positions. In terms of management, we need to have support in our elementary school in order for the principal to be able to meet the required piece of the professional performance review plan.
LCN: Increased classroom observation is suppose to yield dividends in improved teacher performance. How will that happen?
Bischoping: I think that anytime you have a greater focus on something, you will see greater results. The emphases from the state is to not only have greater focus, but to acquire student performance data to tie in to the evaluation.
Wetherbee: There is a big dichotomy between theory and practice. The notion of 70 percent of the principals’ time transferred to the classroom is an expectation — but I don’t have the staff to do it. Maybe the more affluent districts across the state, with a whole cadre of administrators, can do that. Setting the expectation truly might improve student performance, but it is not going to happen in my district, where I’m laying off an administrator.
Hayes: Every teacher is suppose to have at least two observations done per year. If improvement is going to happen, I suspect it will happen around the amount of time the principal and teacher are spending together on instruction. That’s what’s going to create a different climate for us.
LCN: Aren’t novice teachers already subjected to this sort of observation and critiquing?
Bischoping: It depends on our contracts, but for most of us, non-tenured teachers are required to be observed three times in a school year, or more if you can do it.
Alioto: This amounts to yet another unfunded mandate — admittedly a mandate with the best of intentions. Albany education bureaucrats continue to fail to understand what goes on in the field. All of the other responsibilities and duties that principals have to attend to on a daily basis will somehow now need to be shifted. Those shifts will cost money.
Wetherbee: Professional development is going to be necessary for principals and teachers to meet the APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) and the common core state standards. They are the biggest unfunded mandate we have ever seen — at a time when there are very limited resources.
Murray: Any district at this point in time has spent thousands of dollars just to acquire the training needed for the evaluation piece.
LCN: How will the teacher evaluation be done?
Hayes: Every teacher will be evaluated on a 100 point scale. Sixty points will be based on work they do in the classroom, based on the observations and other professional measures. Twenty points will be the comparative “growth measure” for teachers who already have a New York State assessment (that is, ELA or math in grades 4-8).
For others, the growth measure will be developed at the local level. Then everybody will have another 20 points assessment measure based around student learning objectives, also developed at the local level.
LCN: Will these scores and evaluations be public information?
Bischoping: It’s in debate. There was a provision in the budget legislation making the score something that could not be obtained through freedom of information.
Hayes: The current thinking — and what happened in New York City — is that the overall teacher rating is public, but not each component score. The categories will be “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing,” and “ineffective.”
I don’t think any superintendent would want to go to battle for an ineffective teacher.
Wetherbee: …Assuming that rating is accurate.
Hayes: Yes, but let’s also say you have three sections of second grade, and two of those sections have ‘highly effective’ teachers while the third section has a merely ‘effective’ teacher, who perhaps has a score just one point different than the other two. There is no doubt which teachers you, as a parent, will want. But is there really any difference? Is this scientific enough to indicate that?
Bischoping: With those scores being known, there is concern over the teacher’s privacy, but also doing our scheduling. It would likely force us to fill classrooms on a lottery basis.
Wetherbee: New York City’s standard of error on its teacher ratings was 50 percent.
Hayes: The Commissioner of Education says that this is a system which will ‘evolve.’ That means adjustments will have to be made as we go along. That’s easy to say — except it puts teachers’ livelihood on the line.
Bischoping: When two consecutive ‘ineffective’ scores occur, a district can go through a 3020a hearing [for dismissing a tenured teacher]. They can choose to do so, but don’t have to.
It is likely that through appeals, if there is a flaw in the process, it will be made known. On the other hand, if the process does turn out to be effective, then we would use it like any other tool at our disposal.
LCN: This seems to be an attempt to put an objective number on something very subjective. One student’s effective teacher may well be another student’s ineffective teacher.
Hayes: We are going to make professional judgments about teachers using this system. Understandably, there is apprehension and anxiety over how this is all going to work out. They will have to trust us.
LCN: Won’t a teacher perform ‘effectively’ when all her students have had a warm breakfast that morning, have parents working with them with their homework, and speaks the language well; when the student brings all those support factors with him? Yet those things are beyond the teacher’s control.
Wetherbee: I think that’s the fatal flaw in this proposal. You are trying to take a quantifiable business model, where you rate every teacher on the basis of 100 points, then also somehow try to take into account all these intangibles.
Hayes: In theory, the state will be using psychometics to compare teachers fairly with other teachers in similar schools with similar clientele.
Bischoping: There are positives which will come out of this. We as a region are working together more so than we have ever worked together before. We cannot implement the APPR and common core standards without working together.
Hayes: The move toward the common core curriculum is a very positive thing. Mathematics is an example — where we’ve been teaching a very broad curriculum at a very shallow level. We need a narrower curriculum concentrating on kids having a solid grasp of the basics of computation, and then moving on the problem solving using those skills.
Next week The County News will feature the balance of conversation at this superintendents’ session. The topic shifts to school district efforts to function adequately in today’s fiscally austere climate.